The love story of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson has been heralded as one of the greatest romances of the 20th century. But little, revealing details about their relationship humanize the couple and complicate their legendary status.
King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson weren't an obvious match. Born in 1894, the future Edward VIII - known as "David" to friends and family - expected to inherit the British throne. Simpson, born in 1896 in Pennsylvania, was a Baltimore debutante. Edward resisted marriage, while Simpson had been married twice. Her first marriage to Earl Winfield Spencer Jr. ended in divorce in 1927; she was still married to her second husband, Ernest Simpson, when she met Edward in the early 1930s. A romance soon bloomed between Edward and Wallis Simpson. But the possibility of their remaining together was remote; as an American divorcée, Simpson was considered an inappropriate candidate for a royal bride.
When Edward became king in 1936, he insisted he could only serve with the woman he loved - Wallis Simpson - at his side. So he abdicated the throne before the end of the year and the crown passed to his younger brother. Simpson secured a divorce from her husband and the couple married in 1937. They were given the titles the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and lived the rest of their lives abroad.
The Edward VIII/Wallis Simpson love story was more than a simple tale of a king giving up his throne for the woman he adored. As revealed by the small details that defined their very human relationship, their story was many things - complicated, romantic, harrowing, maddening, dramatic, unsettling. But most of all, it was heartbreaking.
Edward's Final Words May Have Been Simpson's Name
In his final years, Edward was diagnosed with throat cancer, which progressively weakened him. He passed on May 28, 1972. One of his nurses recalled that Edward repeated, "Wallis, Wallis, Wallis," as he lay dying.
According to biographer Anne Sebba, Edward passed in the middle of the night, and Simpson was immediately brought to his bedside: "[Simpson] was summoned to his bedroom at 2 am, took his hand and kissed his forehead, whispering 'My David.'"48061Heartbreaking?
They Couldn't Have Children, So They Raised Dogs Together
After Edward abdicated the throne, he and the Duchess of Windsor settled into their new life together. It was apparently fulfilling enough that she said, "The one thing missing in our lives was a child."
But it was not to be. Instead, as biographer Anna Pasternak claims, "The couple's four pug dogs [...] were totally spoilt and almost like surrogate babies."
The duchess kept the pugs after the duke's passing in 1972. When her health deteriorated a few years later, the medical team caring for her had the dogs removed.37080Heartbreaking?
None Of Edward's Family Witnessed His Wedding
Wallis Simpson and Edward married in France on June 3, 1937. Though Edward hoped that his younger brothers would be there for the wedding, none of his family made the trip to France.
The reason for their collective absence was partly because of Edward's brother, the new king, George VI. According to biographer Andrew Morton, George "sent out an edict banning anyone linked to the royal family from attending the wedding."36291Heartbreaking?
Simpson's Aunt Said She Could See Edward's True Feelings In The Way He Looked At Her Niece
Wallis Simpson and Edward spent part of the summer of 1934 together on the French Riviera. Acting as chaperone was Simpson's beloved Aunt Bessie Merryman.
Merryman understood by Edward's "every glance" that he adored Simpson. It was with alarm, not sentiment, that she shared this with her niece, cautioning her, "I can see no happy outcome to such a situation."24470Heartbreaking?